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4 Areas AI Makes the World More Accessible

AI technology such as voice interaction, image recognition and real-time captioning is starting to break down barriers for people with sensory, physical and cognitive disabilities.

In today’s world, so much relies on information. But this can make navigating everyday life even more of a barrier for people with a sensory, physical or cognitive impairment. Fortunately, the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology is helping people with disabilities both interact with the physical world and use digital devices and services.

Disability Legislation to Crack Down on Public Bodies in the UK

New legislation coming into force will mean that, as early as 2020, all public-sector organisations, including all councils will need to make sure that their digital services and online information are accessible for disabled people.

In October 2016, an EU Directive came in which states all public-sector bodies must have accessible digital services by 2020. This means that they can be used by people with disabilities and additional needs, for example using screen readers or other assistive technology. Brexit has meant that this Directive is now being transferred into UK law and will come into effect in its first phase in 2020. The move will ensure that the 20% of people in the UK who have a limiting illness or disability will be able to access public sector websites, software and mobile applications.

A Simple Way to Improve a Billion Lives: Eyeglasses

It’s the biggest health crisis you’ve never heard of. Doctors, philanthropists and companies are trying to solve it. By Andrew Jacobs
New York Times, Originally posted May 5, 2018

PANIPAT, India: Shivam Kumar’s failing eyesight was manageable at first. To better see the chalkboard, the 12-year-old moved to the front of the classroom, but in time, the indignities piled up.

Increasingly blurry vision forced him to give up flying kites and then cricket, after he was repeatedly whacked by balls he could no longer see. The constant squinting gave him headaches, and he came to dread walking home from school.

“Sometimes I don’t see a motorbike until it’s almost in my face,” he said.

CSUN 2018 Heralds The Year of Wearables–Unless It Doesn’t

Shelly Brisbin

When reporting on an event like the annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference, it’s tempting to try to sum it up with a single narrative. This is my third year covering the trade show portion of CSUN. In addition to asking questions for AccessWorld, I was part of the Blind Bargains podcast team You’ll find links to some of our interviews at the link below.

A couple of years ago, Jamie Pauls wrote that CSUN and other accessibility-focused trade shows inaugurated the year of Braille. This year, a number of the products announced in 2016 are available to purchase, some have even been updated, and a few still aren’t available at all. Most of these items exemplify important improvements in function, price, or both.

Blind Woman Helps Guide Successful Voting-Rights Lawsuit Against State of Ohio

By: Rick Reitzel
Updated: Apr 12, 2018

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A lawsuit brought by Disability Rights Ohio has succeeded in requiring Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office into providing accessible voting solutions for the blind.

NBC4 spoke with the woman behind the lawsuit.

Many people take voting for granted as just a simple procedure, but for those with disabilities like Shelbi Hindel, who has been blind since two, accessibility for voting has been a challenge.

“I still want to vote independently and I want to be able to have an option, like others have,” Hindel said.

She has been very mobile, raising two children to adulthood and working jobs for the state and federal governments.

Beyond Title III: Website Accessibility Lawsuits Filed Alleging Inaccessible Online Employment Applications

Seyfarth Synopsis: Plaintiffs who pursued numerous web accessibility actions under Title III of the ADA are now using website accessibility to test the limits of a different area of law employment law California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Over the past few years, we have frequently written about the proliferation of demand letters and lawsuits alleging that a business denied a usually blind or vision-impaired individual access to its goods and services because the business’ website was not accessible, in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state laws. One firm that pursued many web accessibility actions under Title III and California’s Unruh Act (including a success in the Bags N’ Baggage case decided in plaintiff’s favor by a California state court) is now going after employers. In recent demand letters and lawsuits, they are alleging that employment websites are not accessible to blind job seekers, in violation of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California’s corollary to Title I of the ADA.

Why Financial Institutions Should Strive to Meet the Needs of Persons With Disabilities(PWD’s)

April 4 2018

There are over 56 million people living with disabilities in the United States, which makes them the biggest minority group in the nation. With the latest technological innovations, one would think that financial accessibility for the disabled would be a resolved matter in this day and age; however, that is not the case.

As reported by the FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, “more than 5 million people with disabilities are currently unbanked or underbanked”. However, the good news is, financial institutions are becoming more and more aware of the reality of the situation, and are doing their best to create long-term business relationships with people with disabilities.

Apple Proposes Accessibility Emoji, Including Service Dog

Apple on Friday proposed a batch of new accessibility characters, including two different service dogs, according to Emojipedia. Angela Moscaritolo
March 23, 2018

New accessibility emoji could be headed to mobile devices next year.

Apple on Friday proposed a batch of at least nine new accessibility characters, according to Emojipedia. The lot includes two different service dogs, a person with a cane, an ear with a hearing aid, a person in an electric wheelchair, a person in a manual wheelchair, a prosthetic arm, and a prosthetic leg. Another newly proposed emoji has with an index finger on the cheek to represent the American Sign Language gesture for “deaf.”

WFD and WASLI Statement on Use of Signing Avatars

Helsinki, Finland / Melbourne, Australia
14 March 2018

This statement from the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI) is concerned with the way in which decisions on where and when to use signing avatars as a form of access to spoken or written content is being managed by public authorities. The difference in linguistic quality between humans and avatars is why WFD and WASLI cautions against the use of signing avatars as a replacement for human signers.

This statement is to advise on processes with how and when to determine appropriate use of signing avatars.

Trudeau Liberals Axe Funding for Blind and Vision-Impaired Books

By Brian Hill Associate Producer Global News

Kirsty Duncan rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday November 3, 2009.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has decided it will no longer fund the production of accessible books for blind and vision-impaired Canadians, Global News has learned.

Starting April 1, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), which is Canada’s largest producer of accessible and alternate-format books, will no longer receive government funding for converting conventional books into accessible formats. The news comes nine days before the CNIB is set to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Technology Innovations: Making the Online World More Accessible

Ross McLaughlin and Sandra Hermiston, CTV Vancouver
Published Wednesday, March 7, 2018

From wheelchair ramps to braille on ATMs, you can see the steps businesses are taking to make the physical world more accessible for people with disabilities. But what about when it comes to using computers or going online?

“Being able to use the computer and have things in an electronic format is really a life changer,” said Shawn Marsolais, executive director of Blind Beginnings who is living with visual impairment.

The average person now spends around five hours a day on their smartphone, but for people with mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive impairments that’s not always possible.

Ninety-six percent of Visually Impaired Adults Watch TV on a Regular Basis, According to Comcast and the American Foundation for the Blind

Ashley Boucher
SFGate, February 17, 2018

The majority of people with visual disabilities watch four or more hours of television per day, which is almost as much as the general public, a new survey by Comcast and the American Foundation for the Blind found.

That’s compared to a Nielsen study from 2016 that found the average person watched about five hours of television per day.

“It’s a myth to think that you can’t enjoy television just because you have a visual disability,” said Tom Wlodkowski, Vice President of Accessibility for Comcast, who was born blind.

It’s OK To Look At Your Phone At A Broadway Show, If Your Hearing Is Impaired

February 11, 2018·4:55 PM ET
Jeff Lunden

Seventeen Broadway theaters are now using technology that allows deaf and hearing-impaired patrons to see closed captions on their smartphones. Unlike the white smartphone background seen here, the GalaPro app screen is dark.

Jerry Bergman is sitting in the audience at a Broadway matinée performance of The Band’s Visit. Despite the fact that a huge sign above the stage tells the audience in English, Hebrew and Arabic to turn off cellphones, Bergman is keeping his on so he can read closed captions while watching the show.

UK Government Website Offline After Hack Infects Thousands More Worldwide

Thousands of websites globally have been hijacked by code which made computers run cryptocurrency mining software. Sunday 11 February 2018
By Nick Stylianou, Defence & Technology Producer

“The Coinhive script was inserted into a popular third-party accessibility plugin “BrowseAloud” which is used to help blind or partially-sighted people access the web.”

More than 5,000 websites have been hacked to force visitors’ computers to run software that mines a cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin.

Users loading the websites of the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Student Loans Company, as well as the council websites for Manchester City, Camden, and Croydon – and even the homepage of the United States Courts – had their computers’ processing power hijacked by hackers.

A Delicate Approach to Restoring Control

08-02-2018
by Industry Update

An Australian startup programme is aiming to tackle lifestyle problems caused by fine motor control issues, an ever-pervasive ailment that dramatically impacts quality-of-life.

Their solution is a hand controller designed to help people with dexterity issues perform daily household functions: the i-boll.

The i-boll, roughly the size of a junior soccer ball, links to a smartphone app to connect with other devices and uses the smartphone’s built-in accelerometer to track movement.

The wireless device is operated with two hands and aims to help people living with cerebral palsy, arthritis, those recovering from a stroke and the elderly to operate smart devices and household appliances.

What It Means to Be Accessible

BookNet Canada
January 19, 2018

Farrah Little and Sabina Iseli-Otto both work at National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS), a national digital library of accessible format
materials that works with public libraries and publishers across Canada to ensure equal access to reading materials for all Canadians. They will be leading a workshop at ebookcraft 2018 called
We Tear Apart Your Ebooks: How, why, and what you can do to stop us.

Is literature sustenance? As librarians, we certainly imagine so, and with access to the written word: we grow.

Every writer (we librarians subsequently imagine) writes to inform or change the life of another. Why else share a story? Why else be human?

Tech Firm’s Powerful Vision Brings Sight to the Legally Blind

A woman uses eSight’s headset to watch Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking at an event in November. Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Many small businesses establish vision statements that detail their objectives and strategies. Toronto-based eSight Corp., however, gives the concept new meaning.

The company, which makes and sells sophisticated electronic glasses that restore sight to the legally blind, is committed to making blindness history. That mission permeates its research efforts, sales culture and long-term business strategy.

“We’re able, as an organization, to set a vision to live in a world where everyone can see, and to execute that vision in a nimble and pragmatic way,” says Jeffrey Fenton, the company’s director of communications. This mission guides the affordability, distribution, technology and international strategies that have brought eSight attention from around the world.

President’s Message: Nationwide Class Action Challenges Hulu’s Discrimination Against Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals

by Kim Charlson
The ACB Braille Forum Volume LVI, No. 7, January 2018

ACB is very pleased to be working with Disability Rights Advocates, the Disability Law Center, and our affiliate the Bay State Council of the Blind on this case that will bring even more access to streamed television and film content than ever before.

On Nov. 20th, in Boston, a complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on behalf of the larger class of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here are the details.

CTA Foundation Announces Accessibility Award Winners, Exhibitors, Programming at CES 2018

December 21, 2017

ARLINGTON, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) Foundation, a national organization with the mission to link seniors and people with disabilities with technologies to enhance their lives, announced today accessibility-related programming and exhibits at CES® 2018.

Owned and produced by CTA, CES is the global stage for innovation and will take place January 9-12 in Las Vegas, Nev.

Whether it is in IoT, smart homes, robotics, health and fitness, vehicle tech, smart cities or any of the other innovative, breakthrough technologies at CES, were excited to see technology enabling independence for people of all ages and abilities across the show.

DOJ Nixes All Pending ADA Rulemakings, Including Website Access Rules

Seyfarth Synopsis: The Justice Department withdraws pending rulemakings for accessible websites, furniture and non-fixed equipment.

The current Department of Justice’s (DOJ) regulatory approach to Title III of the ADA is yet another example of what a difference an election can make.

In 2010, the DOJ started the rulemaking process to issue new regulations about the websites of public accommodations and state and local governments, as well as non-fixed equipment and furniture used in public accommodations. In July of this year, the DOJ placed these rulemakings on the “inactive list”. On December 26, 2017, these rulemakings will officially be withdrawn.